The parliamentary Justice Committee has begun hearing evidence from lawyers as the members continue their enquiry into the legal implications of Brexit.
Lawyers who have addressed the Committee at the House of Commons have warned of major problems ahead, saying Brexit could disrupt family law proceedings and cause problems for foreign-born families living in the UK as well as British families living elsewhere in the EU.
A spokesman for family law organisation Resolution explained that:
“Brexit is going to have a huge effect on family law, especially for those families whose parents are of different EU nationalities. In 2015 some 27.5 per cent of children born in England and Wales had a foreign mother. There will also be implications for British expat families living in the EU unless agreements are reached to protect them.”
Currently, he explained, divorces granted in one member state are automatically recognised in others (with the exception of Denmark) and the appropriate jurisdiction for family issues involving more than one member state is clearly determind by European Council regulation (EC) 2201/2003, commonly known as Brussels IIA or Brussels II Revised.
If Brussels II no longer applies following Britain’s departure from the EU, the appropriate jurisdiction for every multinational case will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, and this could prove very costly for the families involved, he explained. And there would be no guarantee, the spokesman continued, that any decisions reached within English courts would be recognised in the other country.
Meanwhile, the London Solicitors Litigation Association warned that:
“The outcome of the referendum of 23 June 2016 creates uncertainties that have the potential to damage London as a global centre for litigation if not proactively managed and addressed.”
The Associated added:
“There must be a real risk that the issues facing the London litigation market will not be at the top of the Government’s list of issues that have to be addressed in light of the vote. The LSLA’s position is that they should be; there is no question that international litigation conducted in London generates significant tax and other revenues for the UK, as does the use of English law.”
In order to preserved the jurisdiction of the English courts in international cases, The Association urged the government to consider a reciprocal treaty with the EU similar to that currently in place for Denmark, which has semi-independent status. In addition, it claimed the UK should independently sign the Lugano II Convention, in order to secure its relationship with Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway, which are members of the European Free Trade Area but not full members of the EU.
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